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‘Legend of Zelda’: The Sword the Seals the Darkness – Master Sword Explainer

9 Minute Read
Apr 24 2024

Every hero needs a weapon, and there are few pop culture arms more iconic than Hero of Time’s Master Sword from Legend of Zelda.

The world of fantasy has no shortage of iconic weapons. From Cloud’s Buster Sword to Sora’s Keyblade, a hero’s weapon is just as important as the hero themselves. However, in a world of Excaliburs and Soul Edges, one mighty blade stands above them all: the Master Sword. Known by many names across the various Legend of Zelda games, the sword is nonetheless the most iconic weapon of the series. When you think of Link, Zelda, or Ganondorf, the blue-hilted longsword will also pop into your head. But did you know that it didn’t always look like that? Let’s take a deep dive into the lore and history of the Master Sword.

What Can the Master Sword Do?

Whatever game you find it in, the Master Sword has one job: vanquish evil. It was blessed by the Goddess Hylia and has the power to repel and lock away the most powerful evils. It can even destroy magical barriers, allowing the wielder to travel deep into lands infested by evil magic. According to legend, it is the only weapon powerful enough to keep Ganon contained and the lands of Hyrule safe. Depending on the game, this power comes from Sacred Flames, the prayers of Sages, or the strength of Hylia’s light channeled by Princess Zelda.

Zelda by Andi Serpenti Cosplay, Photography by Matt Meikle, Assistance by Art Miller

Whatever canon you read, however, one thing is always true. To wield the power of the Master Sword, you must be a hero pure of heart with great courage. As such, dark hands can never wield the blade against the good-hearted people of Hyrule. If the destined hero draws the blade before their time, the Master Sword will seal their soul away until they come of age to wield it properly. Whether this is to protect them until their destined time or chastise them for their impatience is unclear.

This is the first mainline Zelda game the Master Sword appears in (the previous games had their own “Magic Sword” that was distinct from the Master Sword). In this game, it sits deep in the Lost Woods, buried in a stone pedestal with ancient Hylian script. The script tells how a destined hero, wielding three mystical seals, will unseal the blade at the time of Hyrule’s greatest crisis. It says: “The Hero’s Triumph on Cataclysm’s Eve wins three Symbols of Virtue. The Master Sword he will then retrieve, keeping the knight’s line true.

When the Dark Wizard Agahnim threatens the Land of Hyrule, the young hero Link gathers the three Pendants of Virtue, which allows him to access the Pedastal of Time and draw the blade. With the Master Sword in hand, he defeats Agahnim twice before finally facing his true foe: Ganon. With Ganon’s evil sealed and Hyrule safe from darkness, Link returns the blade to its pedestal.

Throughout the game, Link can find upgrades for the already powerful Master Sword. The Dwarven Swordsmith upgrades the weapon to the Tempered Sword, and the Cursed Fairy gives it the final upgrade to the Golden Sword. Each of these weapons can fire a magic beam when Link is at full hearts, and the Golden Sword can kill most standard enemies in a single hit.

Ocarina of Time

Taking place ten years after the Unification War, this game sees a young orphaned Link setting out from Kokiri Forest to face the Gerudo thief Ganondorf. He travels around Hyrule and collects three Spiritual Stones and the titular Ocarina. With these in hand, he performs the Song of Time in front of the Door of Time to gain access to the sword chamber. However, when he draws the sword, the spirit within deems him too young to wield the power, sealing his spirit inside the chamber until he comes of age. In the interim, seven years pass, and Ganondorf is able to steal the Triforce, as Link had inadvertently opened the barrier between Realms by drawing the blade.

When Link awakens again, he uses the Master Sword to return to his own time. He is able to awaken the Sages to empower the blade and eventually defeats Ganondorf, who has been transformed into the King of Evil. With the King defeated, Link returns the blade to the pedestal, sealing the entrance to the Sacred Realm and making the Master Sword synonymous with the legend of the Hero of Time.

Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages

The Master Sword is only available during a New Game+ run of either of these games and requires you to have completed one or the other first. With the Master Sword in hand, after you defeat the final boss of the respective second game (they can be played in either order), Link must face off with the Gerudo witches Koume and Kotake. Once they are defeated, they sacrifice themselves to awaken their surrogate son, Ganondorf. Unfortunately, since they did not light the final Flame of Despair, he returns as the feral Ganon. Link defeats him, as he is always destined to do.


The Wind Waker

In this game, the Master Sword is referred to primarily as the “Blade of Evil’s Bane”. It rests in a temple deep beneath the sea and was once wielded by the previous Hero of Time. At the urging of the King of Red Lions, Link pulls the sword from its resting place, unwittingly unleashing Ganondorf’s army and returning Ganon to full power.

Ganon slays the original Sacred Sages, weakening the blade and robbing it of the power to repel evil. Link must seek out two new Sages, who pray to the Goddess Hylia to restore the weapon’s power. In his final confrontation with Ganon, he drives the powered blade into Ganon’s forehead, turning the sorcerer to stone and sinking his tower beneath the sea.

When the blade lacks power in this game, the Triforce symbol at the base is missing, the jewel is dark and dull, and the crossguard is tucked in. As power is restored, the crossguard unfolds to like wings and the jewel glows with power, more closely resembling the iconic Master Sword. However, it is not until Princess Zelda prays over the blade that it regains its full power.

Twilight Princess

In Twilight Princess, the power of the Master Sword comes from the Sols, spirits of light that guard Faron and the surrounding areas. When Link is turned into a wolf by Zant’s magic, Zelda tells him that only the Master Sword’s power can restore him. He travels deep into Faron Woods, where he discovers the resting place of the sword once wielded by the Ancient Hero. Though it is never explicitly stated, it is widely believed that the Ancient Hero who teaches Link swordplay is an incarnation of Link from long ago, perhaps during the Link to the Past timeline.

With the Master Sword in hand and his Hylian form restored, Link returns to the Palace of Twilight. He fuses the Master Sword with the power of the Sols, which allows him to defeat the Twilight Monsters in a single blow. It also clears the Dark Fog that transforms Link into a wolf, allowing him to traverse the Twilight Realm in his Hylian form. His companion, Midna, notes that the gods of Twilight are on Link’s side as well since they allowed the Sols to empower the Master Sword


Skyward Sword

This is the first game in which we learn about the creation of the Master Sword. Known in this game as “The Goddess Sword,” the weapon was created by the Goddess Hylia and infused with a soul, Fi. This living spirit within the weapon explains how the Master Sword could select its wielders and discern if they were ready for the burden. The spirit Fi was created after the dark god Demise was sealed with the blade, to help steer the course of the Hero of Time. In Skyward Sword, after Demise breaks free, Link must bathe the blade in three Sacred Flames to purify it and restore its power. When it receives the final blessing in Din’s Flame, it becomes the White Goddess Sword and is capable of repelling evil. However, it still isn’t at full power.

Link travels to the past and receives the blessing of Princess Zelda, turning the weapon into the true Master Sword. Similar to Wind Waker, the crossguard extends further and turns a deeper shade of purple. The blade also begins to glow blue, and the Triforce symbol becomes more vibrant. In this form, the weapon has three times the power and a much faster charge time. Link is able to defeat Demise, but not before the dark god is absorbed into the sword, promising to haunt the wielder and the Princess who empowers him until the end of time. Link then returns the blade, and Fi enters it to sleep forever.

This Blade is identical to the one available in A Link to the Past and is upgraded in much the same way.

Breath of the Wild

In Breath of the Wild, the Master Sword is sealed deep in Korok Forest. When Calamity Ganon is unleashed on Hyrule, Princess Zelda takes the blade deep into the forest, asking the Great Deku tree to guard it until Link comes for it. When Link attempts to draw the blade, he is warned that it will only accept a wielder pure of heart and strong of body. If he tries to draw it before he is ready, it will take his life. Link needs at least 13 heart containers to survive the ordeal. Once Link successfully draws the blade, he is able to face Calamity Ganon and bring peace to Hyrule.

Unlike the other weapons in Breath of the Wild, the Master Sword cannot break, though it can run out of energy. Once its energy is depleted, it needs ten minutes to recharge. It has a base strength of 30, but in the presence of evil (inside a dungeon, near a guardian, or close to Malice), the blade glows blue, and the power doubles to 60. It also cannot be thrown, though it can fire a beam while Link is at full health. Be careful where you walk, however; the blade is made of metal, and will attract lightning during a storm.

Tears of the Kingdom

The latest Zelda game starts with about as much despair as possible. Link and Zelda are scattered through time, Link’s sword arm is mangled, and the Master Sword is destroyed. When Link awakens after his encounter with the mummified Ganondorf, his arm has been replaced with a Zonai prosthetic. He travels through the realm in the sky and discovers the mangled remains of the Master Sword stuck in a rock.

When he approaches the Temple of Time, a glowing golden portal opens, and Link is encouraged to surrender the broken blade. This sends it to Zelda in the past, who uses the forbidden practice of draconification to restore the blade to its full power. The blade absorbs her Light powers and is restored, but Zelda herself loses her identity and becomes the Light Dragon, with the blade embedded in her forehead.


When Link lands on her back and tries to pull the Sword out, she becomes agitated and tries to throw him off. Link needs two full Stamina Wheels in order to hold on long enough to withdraw the Sword. Once he does, the Dragon calms down, and the restored Master Sword is revealed.

Like in Breath of the Wild, the blade has a base power of 30 and cannot break. However, since Gloom is much more prevalent than Malice, the weapon only increases to 45 power in the presence of darkness. It can be bonded with other materials, but they don’t increase durability at all and only show up as brief green flashes when the sword is wielded.

Author: Clint Lienau
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